Communicating the Value of the Information Professional


Late last month, I shared with you a message that I think captures what I hope we can accomplish this year in SLA. That message is to “lean into the curve,” and it’s a lesson I learned when riding a motorcycle with my husband. When you’re going into a curve, you lean INTO it, even though your brain is telling you to do just the opposite. But it works because it positions you to accelerate as you come out of the curve, enabling you to gather speed as you turn the corner.

My motorcycle analogy is not a simple rhetorical device—I truly believe our association and profession are at a turning point, and it is critical that we begin taking bold steps now to move forward and accelerate toward a positive future. Our brains may tell us to be cautious until we sell our headquarters building and have new leadership in place, but we simply cannot afford to continue doing what we’ve always done in the past.

So, if SLA is going to turn the corner, we’ll need some fuel to help move us forward. That fuel consists of three strategic priorities set last year by the SLA Board of Directors: the value of the information professional, the value of SLA, and the value of the SLA member experience. Today, I’d like to talk a little about the first of those priorities and discuss some actions we’re going to take to rev it up.

I don’t need to tell you about the critical role information professionals play in gathering, synthesizing and sharing knowledge that is crucial to successful decision making. What I (and you) DO need to do is communicate this truth to employers and others who use information. By communicating the value and impact we provide, we can create new opportunities for SLA members in traditional fields such as research and competitive intelligence as well as in data curation, altmetrics, and other emerging areas.

Some SLA members are already working to communicate our value and impact. For example, the SLA Public Relations Advisory Council is creating advertisements for publication in the printed and online editions of the Financial Times. The ads—which stem from our work with the newspaper’s corporate staff in 2013 that resulted in the publication of a valuable report, The Evolving Value of Information Management—will illustrate how information professionals can provide busy executives with decision-ready information that saves them time and effort.

The Member Preferences Task Force, which then-President Kate Arnold appointed last year, recommended that messages be developed to offer practical ways to convey the value of information professionals. Two members of that task force, Toby Pearlstein and Stephen Phillips, have volunteered to continue this work as part of a new Advocacy Task Force (a working name that could change). This group, led by Chris Vestal and including Lois Ireland, Raymond Maxwell and Carolyn Sosnowski, will use member examples to create case studies that offer concrete, usable and adaptable ways for information professionals to demonstrate their value and their contributions to their employer’s success.

These and other efforts are integral to fulfilling our vision of SLA as “a vibrant, global association of professionals who are employed in every sector of the information and knowledge economy.” That vision is something I want each and every SLA member to take to heart. Achieving it means communicating your value to your own employer. It means volunteering and participating in initiatives, whether locally or on the association level. It means actively looking for new opportunities to make a positive difference in SLA and the information profession.

Share your ideas. Engage and join the effort. Lean INTO the curve.

—Jill Strand, SLA President

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